UK animal feed compounders used a total of 90.5Kt of oats in retail feed production between July 2013 and March 2014, notes the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
This total is less than 0.3Kt below the previous record set in 2010 to 2011, with three months of this season’s data still to be published, said the statutory body.
Animal feed rations in the UK are typically largely wheat-based, with barley, maize, and oats making up a smaller proportion of the raw material input.
“A major factor in the greater availability of oats as a feed grain in the UK over the past year was the very wet autumn of 2012, which led to limited winter crop planting of wheat, and saw a subsequent higher percentage of land given over to oats.
That factor, combined with exceptionally good yields, has resulted in the highest oat crop output in the UK for 40 years," said Helen Plant, senior analyst for cereals and oilseeds at AHDB.
Cheaper feed oat prices - currently at £115 per ton - have also played a role in the feed industry turning to oats for use in the diets of all livestock species.
“A large percentage of the oat crop is sold on contract but the remainder, traded on the open market, has seen a dramatic reduction in price. Oat milling prices have also declined – dipping to around £120 per ton today from around £179 per ton on average last year,” she said.
Better prospects for wheat crop
She told us that as the winter was kinder this year, the coming harvest should see "back to normal” crop output levels for feed wheat.
The higher feed oat usage trend is, thus, not expected to continue into next year, said Plant.
“The total oat area is likely to be smaller next year, based on winter plantings. And we don’t forecast much carry-over of stock from this year.
Demand for oats in animal feed, plus forecast record usage by the UK oat milling industry is predicted to absorb much of the record oat crop," said the cereals expert.
Higher feed barley usage
Plant added that there has also been an increase in the amount of barley being used by the UK feed sector over the past year.
However, the AHDB notes there are nutritional limits to how much barley can be used in feed rations, particularly for pigs and poultry.
The cereal experts forecast that for 2014 to 2015, UK animal feeds will comprise 62% wheat - commercial plus fed-on farm - whereas in France this is projected to be 41% in comparison.
Additionally, the AHDB estimates that animal feeds in UK will be comprised of only 8% maize, whereas in France this is forecast at 39%.